In a battle of two of the world’s richest billionaires, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, the latter claimed victory in a recent NASA contract award when the space exploration agency chose Musk’s SpaceX over Bezos’ Blue Origin and Huntsville-based Dynetics to build the next lunar lander.
Dynetics and Blue Origin formally objected to NASA’s decision to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an agency of the federal government that monitors government spending and reviews contract awards. The space juggernauts argued NASA did not fully comply with existing procurement law. Upon review, the GAO determined NASA’s award evaluation process had been completed fairly and was void of any rules violations.
In a statement, the GAO laid the grounds for which the challengers were protesting the award.
“In the challenge filed at GAO, the protesters argued that the agency was required to make multiple awards consistent with the announcement’s stated preference for multiple awards,” the statement read. “Alternatively, the protesters alleged that the agency was required to open discussions, amend, or cancel the announcement when NASA, after the receipt of proposals, determined that it had less funding than it needed to support multiple HLS awards. The protesters also argued that NASA unreasonably evaluated all three of the proposals. Finally, the protesters argued that NASA improperly waived a mandatory solicitation requirement for SpaceX.”
The agency went on to detail the determining factors which led to it denying the challengers’ protests.
“In denying the protests, GAO first concluded that NASA did not violate procurement law or regulation when it decided to make only one award. NASA’s announcement provided that the number of awards the agency would make was subject to the amount of funding available for the program,” said the agency.
The GAO continued, “In addition, the announcement reserved the right to make multiple awards, a single award, or no award at all. In reaching its award decision, NASA concluded that it only had sufficient funding for one contract award. GAO further concluded there was no requirement for NASA to engage in discussions, amend, or cancel the announcement as a result of the amount of funding available for the program. As a result, GAO denied the protest arguments that NASA acted improperly in making a single award to SpaceX.”
If overturned, the decision would have served as a tremendous boon for Dynetics. The North Alabama-based defense contractor regularly partners with NASA, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the intelligence community to deliver information technology services which play a crucial role in achieving national security objectives. The Rocket City company is among the state’s top industry powerhouses which contribute to the Yellowhammer State’s position as a national leader in space exploration.
Blue Origin, which houses a rocket engine-producing plant in Huntsville, made news last month as the company completed its first human flight into space.
Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL